Half the people exited the screens, including Decker and Katie who went out on the flanks a little to make sure no samurai or super soldiers were following around to see if the screens made a complete circle. The wagon took four discs, one for Ghost, one for Tony, and one front and back on the wagon itself. There was overlap, but that was better than getting stuck on a corner. Once they were all gathered, they hurried off toward the road, to catch up with the refugees and Hideko’s students, and to get out of visual range as soon as possible.
Elder Stow sat and between the screen device and his scanner, he watched the activity outside the screens. He saw the super soldiers try handguns and one rifle. He watched them try to concentrate fire. It did them no good.
He saw the Japanese warriors. Katie said they were not technically samurai yet, not that he knew what that was, but the others all called them that. He watched them bang on the screens with swords, spears, clubs, stones, and a couple of arrows. One noticed a bird fly right though the screens. Elder Stow made the screens so they would not interfere with the living flora and fauna—at least birds would not be hindered. Three men helped a fourth reach a tree branch. He climbed to the same height and jumped where he thought the bird came through what he thought was a screen wall, much like a stone wall, but invisible. He went further than he expected and landed, not nearly at the top of the dome, but up on the side. Of course, he had nothing to hang on to, so he slid back to the ground down the gentle curve. He seemed to enjoy the ride and maybe wanted to do that again.
“Ah…” Elder Stow said to himself out loud as the samurai and super soldiers met around the edges. Three samurai met three super soldiers, and the three samurai fell to their knees and grabbed at their heads. The super soldiers conferred while they held the three men in the grip of their telepathic power. Then one soldier further back, fired an arrow. It struck a super soldier in the middle of his torso. Elder Stow noted, the Ouran heart was somewhere in the middle, where the human stomach might be. They had more ribs as well, so it took a well-placed shot to damage the heart. The shot was well-placed, or rather, lucky. Of course, the two standing super soldiers fired on the samurai and made small explosions in the rocks and trees behind which the samurai hid. One of the super soldiers immediately shot the three samurai at his feet, and then the two sides backed away.
Finally, the shuttle the super soldiers arrived in came close and fired on the screens with almost no affect. Meanwhile, Elder Stow scanned the shuttle and found four more super soldiers aboard. “So, there are eleven, well, now ten to contend with locally,” he said to himself, and then worried, because wherever the main ship was, it was out of his scanner range. “And who knows how many soldiers the main ship may be carrying.”
Out in the field, Katie had a question. “These blue-skinned Ouran. Are they Bluebloods?”
Hideko, who borrowed Elder Stow’s horse to ride beside her shook her head. “They can’t just plant their seed in a woman like the Bluebloods could. They reproduce normally between the two sexes, otherwise I would not let them near my women. But they are the result of a Blueblood incursion several thousand years ago. They all carry Blueblood genes. They are what I told you ages ago, what the human race would have become if the Bluebloods ever got a foothold on earth.”
Katie nodded and looked back. Nanette and Hangaku seemed very animated in their discussion. Lockhart tried not to listen. It made Katie smile for the man. Behind them, Lincoln and Alexis talked some, but Tomoe looked like she got saddled with her least favorite aunt. She only talked when asked a direct question, and then it was short and to the point. Tony had the wagon. Decker had the rear, which was the only direction they expected to face any trouble. Sukki and Boston still rode out front, but being on the road, Sukki stayed close, just behind the Ouran and women who walked at a good pace. Boston still rode out ahead, but it was mostly to look for places where the wagon might have some trouble.
“So, what are you going to do about your brother?” Katie asked. “You are technically living in his province.”
Hideko shook her head. “The school is over the mountain, so technically in Iga province, which is not technically his. But who pays attention to technicalities? Kiyomori has set his path, I think, and it does not look like a good one. He lusts for power and control, and he will eliminate anyone who gets in his way. I am not surprised he wants to see me dead. He makes alliances and promises only to break them when they become inconvenient. He forces others to do what he wants and does not even leave his own children out of that mix. I see only ruin for my family.”
“I’m sorry,” Katie said. “I know something of the struggle and political turmoil of these days here in Japan, but I don’t know details. Most of my graduate work was in the west—the advent of gunpowder and that sort of thing.”
“Ancient and medieval technologies,” Hideko said, gathering the information from somewhere in time. She gave the horse his reigns and used both hands to pull her long, gray hair into a ponytail. She curled it and used a piece of leather she wore on her wrist, and a stick she pulled from her armor to tie it up. “I am forty-nine,” she said. “The war that is coming, that looks inevitable, will hopefully be my last in this life. My brother is forty-two, and I have younger brothers. My brother also has sons, and one daughter, Tokuko. She is five. I worry about that girl, being the only girl, outside of her submissive mother, around so many men. I fear she will become what men do with girls, a political pawn, and she may come to no good end.”
“You sound like you have a handle on events. How do you come by your information?” Katie wondered.
“I have spies,” Hideko said with a straight face. “I train spies, young and old, common people and nobility. I know about my father’s illness and pray that he rests in peace. I cannot go there to see him, though. To do so would be to invite my own death.”
It was almost an hour later when the super soldier shuttle approached. People got off the road and into the woods with only a few screaming. They had supposedly prepared for this. Katie took Sukki’s horse and Sukki rose up into the sky to meet the ship if she could. She went invisible, which suggested Elder Stow was close and kept her disc tuned to the invisible spectrum.
The shuttle got off one shot. It made a big explosion and hole in the road near the front of the women and refugees. A few were injured. Alexis feared Boston, who undoubtedly rode back, might be injured. But after that, the main gun of the ship melted under Elder Stow’s weapon blast, and the back end of the shuttle exploded where Sukki trained her power.
“Sukki,” Nanette called as the shuttle shot straight to the ground like a rocket where it exploded again in a much bigger explosion that shook the earth where they stood. Sukki became visible when she arrived, and Nanette and the others all sighed their relief at seeing her, unharmed. Elder Stow’s voice came over the communication device.
“Just making sure none survived, though I don’t see how any could have survived,” he said. “I’ll catch up.”
Katie lifted her arm to respond but glanced back and saw that Lockhart already had his arm up, so she lowered her hand.
“Roger that,” Lockhart said. “Don’t be long.”
“Out.” Elder Stow said.
The travelers, refugees, and women finished the journey without another incident. When they arrived, Hideko went straight into action. The school had a six-foot wall all the way around a very large area that included a half-dozen buildings. Two of those building were quite large. One looked like a simple farmer’s hut. “My home,” Hideko called the hut. “The hut of the old woman on the mountain, and now I am becoming the old woman.” She smiled.
“Where do you want us when your brother’s samurai show up?” Lockhart asked her.
“Available,” she said, and went inside her hut. She came out only a moment later with her face painted white as a ghost, her lips blood red, and dressed in the armor of the Kairos with as much hardware as she could carry. “You know,” she said. “I used to paint Leonora’s face in the same way when she got into her harlequin costume. It was what we came up with to be sure neither her father, nor her uncle the Doge of Venice would find her or recognize her if they did find her.”
They waited until about two hours after dark. When the samurai arrived, they began with a charge at the front gate. The travelers killed most of them, though after their initial shock at the guns, the men and women on the wall got to practice their archery skills and killed some. There could not have been more than a dozen that escaped back to the woods.
Hideko thanked the travelers and told them to get off the wall. She sent teams of three into the woods to rout out the remains of the warriors and end their threat. She checked on her Ouran refugees, saw them fed and bedded, and reassured the chief that she could repair their ship and send them on their way.
“What will you do about the main ship of the super soldiers?” Elder Stow asked what was on his mind.
“Burn that bridge when I come to it,” Hideko said. “Not your concern.”
Then the women gathered with Hideko, the two Gozens, and a few others to throw Nanette an informal bachelorette party while the men got pampered. Hideko had a few girls from lesser houses in the capital of Kyoto who needed to practice their tea, song, and dance. They ate well and toasted Decker time and again. Elder Stow found the sake made him giggle, and the sound of a Neanderthal giggling made everyone laugh. Of course, for the next ten days, all the way to the next time gate, they had to watch Elder Stow hold his head and hear him complain about the evil drink.
“I thought it was a kind of fruit juice,” he said, over and over.
Back to the regular schedule. Episode over two weeks. 3 posts per week.
Episode 8.11, Tax Collectors and Other Thieves in Nottinghamshire, England. Until Monday, Happy Reading.